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Basic craft tools to have on hand

Measuring Things

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Ruler: Sounds simple, but a good ruler can change your life. Get an 18" metal ruler. That way you can use a craft knife to cut against the edge. A rubber or cork backing is best. You should also have one transparent plastic ruler, for when you need to mark lines while seeing the image.
Measuring tape: You'll need this for measuring around things.

Cutting Things

Almost everything can be done with scissors and a craft knife, but here are some standard cutters:

Scissors: A few pairs of sharp scissors, large and small, are a necessity. Large scissors are for the big stuff and heavy materials. Small scissors are for cutting around curves and snipping out small shapes. For fabric cutting, get a good pair of sewing scissors, and don't use them for anything else because they become dull.
Decorative-edged scissors or Deckle-edge Scissors: The cutting edges create distinctive designs. You can get the effect with pinking shears, if you like zig-zags on everything.
Paper Cutter: This is useful for cutting perfectly straight lines. There are two types: a rotary blade that slides along the cutting edge, and a guillotine blade, that levers down and slices off the paper. For most projects, you will be best served by the largest rotary paper cutter. The fanciest version incorporates a light under the cutting edge, which makes it easy to see exactly where the blade will cut.
Circle Cutter: This tool adjusts to cut circles of any diameter.
Craft knife: There are many varieties and sizes, and leading the pack is the ever-popular X-Acto Knife. The blades are replaceable. The basic style is a 5" aluminum tube handle, with a pointed blade. Keep it stored with the cap on, or push it into a cork. Wrap the blade in masking tape when you dispose of it.
Hole punch: We use it every day. Punches one little hole, right where you need one.
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Craft Punches: These stamp out a shaped hole in paper. Craft stores offer a wide variety of shapes, sizes and motifs.
Corner Rounder: A cousin of the Craft Punch, this trims paper corners into a curved shape.
Tin snips: These heavy-duty scissors are necessary for cutting sheet metal.
Wire cutter: Don't cut wire with your scissors. Bad for scissors. Get a pair of needle-nose pliers with a wire cutter at your hardware store.

Attaching Things Together

Although we believe "If it can't be done with Elmer's Glue and double-stick tape, it is too hard" there are some adhesives you should have.

Paper glue: "A glue by any other name..." will still stick. Also known as Elmers Glue, PVA, white glue, school glue, you name it. It goes on wet and white, smears easily, and dries clear and strong. Careful; the moisture can buckle thin paper or make water-soluble inks run.
Glue stick: This solid glue in a little tube is clean and convenient to use. It goes on pretty dry, so it will not affect water-soluble inks or paints. The bond is not strong, so limit it to paper applications.
Mounting squares or Mounting tape: This is a thin foam strip, with adhesive on both sides. There are many varieties of thickness and stickiness. They are often used in scrapbooking to get a "dimensional" look.
Rubber Cement: This provides an easily removable bond when applied to one surface only and joined immediately to the other surface. For a permanent bond, apply it to both surfaces, let them dry for a short time, and press the surfaces together. Excess cement can be removed by rubbing it away. It is not a long-term adhesive, because it ultimately yellows and comes loose.
Spray glue: Let's begin with a warning: use it outdoors, wear old clothes and rubber gloves, and protect your eyes and glasses. But boy, does it stick. It is great for sticking large pieces of paper together, forever.
Glue gun: An electric tool for heating and applying adhesive. Several adhesives are available in the form of solid sticks of glue. Once cool, these adhesives are very strong and are suitable for bonding heavy objects.
Tape: At the least, you need rolls of transparent tape (the frosty "magic" kind) and some light-stick masking tape (usually bright blue). The masking tape is for temporarily attaching items, securing stencils, holding things together while glue dries, etc.
Double-stick tape: This deserves its own entry. This tape has adhesive on both sides, and is great for quickly attaching materials. There are many varieties: light-stick, transparent, paper, wide, thin, you name it. We always have a roll of the basic Scotch version on hand.
Epoxy: An adhesive composed of two liquids, a resin and a hardener, that when mixed together, harden to form a strong bond. Epoxy is suitable for bonding porous and non-porous materials.
Household Cement: This multi-purpose glue is good for porous and non-porous materials. It generally dries amber and non-flexible.
Glitter-glue: Our favorite. Clear glue with glitter suspended in it. It dries clear.

Note: We could go on and on about adhesives. There is a glue for every material and purpose under the sun. For scrapbooking or photo applications, be sure the adhesive is labeled "acid-free."

Other Ways to Attach Things

Staples: Very handy for the crafter. Our favorite technique for cutting with a template is to staple the template to the paper, to hold it firmly in place while we cut. A larger staple gun is indispensable for attaching fabrics to wood.
Paper clips: Can't leave them out. We use them mostly to clear out clogged spray nozzles, hold paper together while glue dries, or as a source for short pieces of wire.
Pins: Essential for holding fabrics in place, or for a myriad of craft uses. Need to prop something up while the paint dries? Stick some pins in a pieces of foam or cardboard and rest your object on them. They'll leave almost no marks. Have a big box of pins on hand.
Paper fasteners: These are the little pointy things with round heads that you punch through sheets of paper and bend the pints back on the other side. These actually can be useful then you want to add a thrifty stud ornament, or attach paper so it can rotate, like hands on a clock.
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Grommets: Not exactly a fastener, but can function that way. A grommet is a ring or eyelet of metal, often used to reinforce a hole. Once punched through a material, it is expanded on the back side to secure it.
Rubber Bands: One of the all-time great inventions for hands-free convenience when you need to hold things together while the glue dries.
Clothes Pins: Can't actually think of a use right now, but we couldn't just leave them hanging out to dry, could we? Actually, they are great for clamping flat items while glue dries.
String, thread, ribbon, wire: Sometimes the best way to attach things is to tie them together. In your arsenal, you should have a variety of decorative ribbons, heavy thread, and floral wire (comes in set lengths rather than a roll).

Embossing and scoring

Bone Scorer, Folder or Burnisher: This is necessary for card making. A bone scorer is a flat piece of plastic or Teflon (yes, you can still buy them made from bone), round at one end and pointed at the other. It is used for scoring and folding paper, and burnishing.
Metal scriber: Okay, we use a ball-point pen, but a good metal scriber will make a good sharp line in metal.


Brushes: You'll need several paintbrushes (many, if you don't clean them properly). All you have to do is choose among the millions of sizes, styles and bristles. But this is crafting, not fine art: synthetic brushes are suitable for most work. You should have some brushes that are very fine, some medium, and a few broad, flat brushes. You'll also want a stencil or pounce brush, which is very fat with a rounded head of bristles. (Keep old brushes for spreading glue and caustic substances.)
Foam brushes: These are cheap, disposable brushes. Use them for spreading glue, crackle medium, and polyurethane on large areas. Very handy.
Natural sea sponge: We bless the day this diminutive creature gave up its life for art. The sea sponge is the only way to scumble: pouncing multiple colors of paint to achieve a rich, textured combination of colors.

Other Tools

Brayer: Get one. It is a small rubber "rolling pin" used to smooth surfaces, flatten paper, or apply paints or inks. We use it daily for gently forcing the bubbles and kinks out of paper during decoupage.
Light Box or Light Table: A tool for viewing transparencies or for tracing images. It is a box containing a light source (usually sunlight fluorescent) and a translucent glass or plastic surface. There are table-top versions. Then there is our version: holding the paper up to a window.

Miscellaneous Useful Stuff

Newspapers: The perfect disposable drop cloths. Except in the wind.
Paper plates, plastic containers and old jars: You will go through a lot of these things when painting. Hang on to everything that doesn't have food on it.
Stirring sticks: We use cheap wooden chop sticks - the take-out variety.
Squeeze bottles: Have a few sizes, with different openings, for applying your own mixtures of paint or glue.
Combs: Combs are useful for creating textures in paint, glue or other mediums. They can also swirl patterns into water-borne paint for marbleizing paper.
Toothpicks: Use them for cleaning nozzles and spreading glue under the edges of paper. When we need to prop up a wet decoupage or paper maché project, we make a little "bed of nails" drying rack by sticking toothpicks into a flat piece of Styrofoam.

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